Appease your child’s picky palate with these tasty Tater Tots. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

Appease your child’s picky palate with these tasty Tater Tots. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

On the strawberry patch: Tots to be thankful for

Two years ago, I spent the entirety of Thanksgiving Day in my green rocking chair, cradling my newborn son.

Two years ago, I spent the entirety of Thanksgiving Day in my green rocking chair, cradling my newborn son, and I had much to be thankful for.

He was healthy and beautiful and just 7 days old. My husband was fretfully attentive, and often the comic relief, and watching him with our son melted my heart.

My sister and her two children lived under the same roof, and her constant presence brought me immeasurable comfort.

The women of our family had generously gathered at our home to prepare a holiday meal for us (with plenty of leftovers to keep us fed for days) so my husband and I could rest and focus on bonding with the precious child we had created.

In the days since swaddles and 2 a.m. feedings, he has grown into a happy toddler. He is cautious and quiet, gentle, affectionate, independent and very bright. He does, however, have typically stubborn toddler taste buds, so meal times can often be mildly frustrating.

As much as he would like it, a child cannot survive solely on tofu and peanut butter toast, so my mission to expand his palate is never-ending. These baked cheesy Tater Tots received a frosty welcome, but I am positive he will be begging for me to make them before he turns 3.

Ingredients:

4 medium russet potatoes

⅓ cup minced leek (or green onion)

½ cup grated cheddar

¼ cup grated Parmesan

1 tablespoon salt

½ teaspoon white pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil (for brushing and greasing pans)

Directions:

Boil your potatoes whole, skin-on, until tender.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat.

Allow potatoes to cool completely before peeling and grating into a large mixing bowl.

Mix in your grated cheeses and salt and pepper.

Form your tots into disks about 2 inches in diameter and 1-inch thick.

Arrange on your lined baking tray, brush both sides with olive oil to prevent sticking, cover in plastic wrap, and allow to freeze completely.

Remove frozen tots from tray and move into a gallon sized zip-top freezer bag.

To cook, bake frozen tots on a greased pan at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, flip, and cook for another 5.

The frozen tots will keep for up to two months and, since they are individually frozen, you can remove only what you need at a time.

This is also a great way to sneak some vegetables into your kids’ diet. Try finely grated carrot or sweet potato, maybe some finely diced sweet pepper, or even (gasp!) some grated broccoli.

If the mixture is too dry to hold together, add an egg or two until it sticks. Whatever you add, make sure it is cooked soft before assembling or the variation in texture might be off-putting.

The night before his birthday I sat reflecting on the first two years of his life. When I gave birth to him, I also gave birth to a whole new family, and a new version of myself, and I am thankful for that power of creation.

Any sadness or pain I had before him has been eclipsed by my joy at his existence, and I am thankful for every minute I have with him.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you all enjoy and appreciate all the moments and people you have to be thankful for.

Tressa Dale is a culinary and pastry school graduate and U.S. Navy veteran from Anchorage. She lives in Nikiski with her husband, 2-year-old son and two black cats.

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